It came down to who could cash in at the free-throw line Friday night, when La Cañada High's girls' basketball team hosted Whittier Christian.
The Heralds shot 68% (11 of 16), while the Spartans shot 47% (11 of 23) at the charity stripe, as Whittier pulled out a 45-36 nonleague win.
"It came down to missed free throws," La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill said. "When you have a chance to close the gap at the end and you miss free throws — that's not how you win games."
The Spartans' guards, Christene Hossepian and Courtney Chen, kept their team in the game. Hossepian scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed four steals, while Chen nabbed a game-high seven steals and put up eight points.
Whittier's one-two punch of Jaden Louie and Trinity Flores weren't to be outdone, however. Both players scored 12 points each. Louie almost came away with a double-double, bringing down nine rebounds.
The Heralds dominated the boards all night, outrebounding La Cañada, 39-23.
La Cañada (2-4) started slowly, as the Heralds (5-1) went on an 8-0 run to start the game.
It was a defensive struggle from then on, as both teams had difficulty running their offenses, combining for just 22 points in the first half. Whittier held a13-9 edge at halftime.
Both offenses started putting up more points in the second half, as the Heralds exploded for 21 points in the third quarter.
The game seemed all but over as Whittier Christian entered the fourth quarter with a 34-18 lead. But the Spartans wouldn't surrender.
A total of 26 free throws were shot in the final quarter. The teams entered the bonus early in the fourth quarter and the game's pace slowed to a crawl. Stopping the clock played to La Cañada's advantage, but the Spartans were 53% (eight of 15) from the free-throw line in the final quarter.
The Spartans cut the lead to, 34-27, but the late charge wasn't enough.
"We battled back and got it as close as seven, but couldn't climb back any further," Hill said. "We're a young team and still learning how to finish."
Hill realizes her young squad's offense still has some growing pains to get through.
"We had a hard time running our offense today; one person does the wrong thing and it all falls apart," Hill said. "We just have to make sure the entire team gets on the same page and hopefully we'll turn the corner."